This blog originally published in Printing Impressions.
Congratulations, whether you have recently been anointed as the leader of the business, or you started the company 30 years ago, your organization needs a steadfast leader at the top of the food chain, and that is you. The role is filled with highlights and heartache. You need to be adept at charting the course, and attracting and retaining the right people, and on some days, make the unpopular decision or be a trusted sounding board.
It’s Not a Popularity Contest
Not everyone will be happy with the course you select and the decisions that you make. Some leaders struggle when they try to please everyone. Face it, sometimes you just need to make the call and move on. As you know, it’s tough to be productive having one foot on the dock and one in the boat. If the culture is right and you’ve built a level of trust within the organization, making these difficult decisions will be easier. If the trust levels within your organization have gaps, these tough decisions will expose them and relationships will be strained.
Leading vs. Managing
The more you read, the more you find this can be a confusing area. I prefer in keeping things simple so I believe that you lead people and you manage things. With that, having all your KPI’s and dashboards set up are great tools to manage a process or workflow, but not a replacement for leading the team. Here’s an example: I’m frequently approached by company CEO’s who are not happy with the performance of the sales team. Their reaction is they want to change the compensation plan so that the reps will alter their behavior and sell more. While that may be effective in driving out the non-performers, chances of a behavior change with the others is slim. If they could have sold more, they would have. Finding out what’s in their way, eliminating obstacles (and excuses), and providing them with the tools and direction to be more successful will take you much further than simply changing the compensation plan and hoping things get better.
If you’re pleased with someone’s performance, let them know. If you’re not happy with someone’s performance, let them know. Don’t stew over it or tell everyone but that individual, sit down and have an adult conversation with that person. Setting the expectations for ongoing employment are akin to saying “in order for you to be a successful contributor to this organization, here are the key things that need to happen and here’s how we’ll keep track of your progress. And if they don’t happen, here’s how we’ll try to resolve it. If for some reason we can’t get past that stage, then maybe we agree that the position is not a good fit for you. I have found in many cases that the individual in question is often as frustrated as the leader is, but that there has been no meaningful discussion about the issues.
Take a hard look at how you lead and how you manage, and get the elements into the right balance. Ask for feedback from your direct reports or members of your peer group or advisory team. It’s not easy being at the top, so you should utilize all the resources you can to help make you the leader that your company deserves. Good luck with this and remember, doing nothing is not an option!
Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.com, LinkedIn or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.